US ‘threatens ICC judges with sanctions’ over rights probe

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THE United States has said it will adopt an aggressive posture against the International Criminal Court (ICC), and threatened sanctions against ICC judges if they proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Americans in Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, is set to make the announcement in a speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative group, in Washington on Monday.

It will be his first major address since joining the Trump White House.

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton will say, according to a draft of his speech seen by Reuters.

In 2016, the ICC said that US armed forces and the CIA might have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afganistan.

Established in 2002, the ICC is the world’s first permanent court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

More than 120 countries around the world are members, but superpowers including the US, Russia and China have not signed up.

Pressure tactics

Bolton is also expected to announce the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington because of the Palestinian attempt to get the ICC to investigate Israel.

The action against the PLO is the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration against the Palestinian leadership.

Palestinian officials described the planned mission closure as the latest pressure tactic by a Trump administration that has slashed funding to a UN agency for Palestinian refugees and to hospitals in East Jerusalem.

“We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying,” Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

“Accordingly, we continue to call upon the International Criminal Court to open its immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.”

There was no immediate response from Israel, where government offices were closed for the Jewish new year.

If such an inquiry goes ahead, the Trump administration will consider banning judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, put sanctions on any funds they have in the US financial system and prosecute them in American courts.

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us,” says Bolton’s draft text.

Monday’s announcement comes just weeks after the US said it would cut more than $200m in economic aid for the Palestinians.

On Sunday, Trump also ordered that $25m earmarked for the care of Palestinians in East Jerusalem be directed elsewhere.

The decision to cut funding comes amid a severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where more than 160 Palestinians protesting for their right to return to the areas from which they were forcibly expelled from in 1948 have been killed by Israeli gunfire since March 30.